5 Issues Your Members Will Talk About in 2012

The flood of articles predicting what’s going to happen in 2012 has begun, so I thought I would throw in a small church perspective.  Interestingly, I think 2012 will bring us to a unique intersection of faith and politics.

Here are the top five issues your members will be discussing in 2012:

Religious pluralism.  Your members may not use that phrase – “religious pluralism” – but their conversations will be sprinkled with talk about the rise of other, non-Christian religions in the United States.  With Mitt Romney and John Huntsman running for the Republican nomination, Mormonism has moved into the public consciousness.  Do we take the position that Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, took when he publicly labeled Mormonism a “cult?” Jeffress was condemned roundly for his intolerance by other Republicans.  Your members will want to know about Mormonism — particularly if Romney is the Republican nominee.  Of course, Muslims are also a hot topic as Christians struggle to understand how we should love our neighbors, some of whom wear hijabs.

Extremism.  Many in media acknowledge that the popularity of conservative talk radio and TV news commentary has moved the country further to the right than it has ever been.  Extreme views are now becoming mainstream views.  Some of your members will applaud the rhetoric about arresting sitting judges, isolating our nation from international conflicts, and ending entitlement programs.  Ron Paul’s blatantly racist 20-year old newsletters will continue to be an issue.  Some will see no problem with them, while others will believe those views disqualify him from nomination.  Extreme views are often fear-based, and designed to get media attention, but they find resonance in the frustrations of those who feel marginalized.  As church leaders, our task is to let the Gospel inform our civic dialogue.

Social economics.  This year, politicians are not only touching the previously-fatal “third rails” of Social Security and Medicare, some are proposing ripping them up.  Churches need to have conversations about the role of government and the local church in caring for the poor, hungry, sick, and incarcerated.  Matthew 25 might be a good place to start because Jesus has some pretty harsh words for those who do not care for the “least of these.”  The question for Christians is not should those on the margins of society be helped, the question is how and by whom.  Your members will have a variety of opinions, and all of them strongly-held.

Immigration.  Alabama, Georgia, Arizona, and other states have passed tough anti-immigration laws.  But in Alabama and Georgia farmers are complaining that their laborers have left the state out of fear.  How does the story of the good Samaritan square with the actions of these states and of popular opinion?  Some of your members may want to “fence them out,” but the Bible does have a great deal to say about “the stranger within your gates.” Balancing the rule of law and Christian hospitality can be tricky business.

Hierarchy of beliefs.  In 2012, evangelicals will face the challenge of having to rank their beliefs in a hierarchy of importance when making political choices.  Which is more appealing to evangelical Christians – voting for a candidate who has been faithful to his marriage vows but who is a Mormon (or liberal Christian in Barack Obama’s case); or, electing a repentant serial adulterer and former evangelical-turned-Catholic? Of course, I’m not the first to point out the contrast between Romney and Gingrich, and some evangelical leaders have made their choices public.  But, there are other areas in which we are being forced to choose one value over another, and these cut across party lines.  For example, is President Obama’s use of drones to assassinate individual terrorists more or less acceptable than using U. S. troops in traditional combat roles, both of which result in loss of life?  Does the sanctity of life extend from the issue of abortion to capital punishment, or is a convict’s life not included in that which is sacred? Your members will want to know if some of our Christian values should take precedence over other values when making decisions.

These five issues provide church leaders with opportunities for discussion and Bible study.  Of course, these are hot-button issues and emotions can run high even in church conversations, so tread carefully.  But if we do not offer our members the resources to explore these issues in order to make decisions informed by their faith convictions, then we are missing an important opportunity.  Happy New Year!

5 thoughts on “5 Issues Your Members Will Talk About in 2012”

  1. i really believe you are touching on the profound here. we are a world of confusion and the worlds’ people are in turmoil. what’s most profound is that the simplicity of what’s-to-come rests in the Bible, yet people refuse to enter there in order to find solutions. Your teachings here are welcomed. Keep up your good work of getting thoughts, as these out to the world.

  2. Chuck, I commend your succinct, and if I may say so, your “really fair and balanced” analysis of the problems and challenges facing the Christian Church and her voters. Our world today reminds me of nothing so much as a patched up Humpty Dumpty “after the wall”. Not bad Chuck. Not bad at all.

    Just a whisper from the peanut pews: Jesus speaks of our obligations to the poor over 200 times in the New Testament. Paul speaks of homosexuality once and it was in the context, I am told, of temple prostitutes. “Oh if only the Bible would agree with Me!”
    Wouldn’t that make a wonderful Church Hymn?

    Sorry Chuck. I do get carried away sometimes.

    Mark dePaulo

  3. I think the issues you raise are interesting and I am sure they will be discussed in our churches but I think you are asking questions that will raise other deeper questions, especially if we try and answer them honestly. How do we understand the Scriptures and interpret them. Is Christianity a religion of immutable doctrines or is it living and active, changing and growing organism being challenged and changed by new understandings of the cosmos and life.

  4. I wish more religious leaders would take a more balanced approach like this. While I think that our religious views should inform our political views, I think few dangers are greater to the church than mixing religion and politics to the point where churches endorse certain positions and/or candidates as the Christian one… and anyone who disagrees with them is no longer considered Christian. Furthermore, I think we need to be aware that even when people agree on certain values, there may be disagreement on how those values are expressed legally.

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